wellness1Waiting his turn to ride a horse along the trails behind the Blazing Saddles Equestrian Center, Zachary (Grade 7) said the Middle School’s newly named Wellness Program is an exciting addition to life at school. “It’s great, because we get to go out and experience things we might not do on our own,” he said.

Middle School students are required to choose one of three activities every semester—an interscholastic sport, participation in performing arts, or the Wellness Program. Wellness began as a fitness program, but was renamed and redesigned this year to offer different activities and some more adventurous opportunities, says athletic director Sam Landau.

Students receive fitness instruction every day: On Mondays, they have a kick-boxing class; they play tennis on Tuesday; on Thursday, they do CrossFit and on Friday, they practice yoga and receive some nutrition instruction. Each class is taught by an instructor who specializes in the particular disciplines. Wednesdays are reserved for activities students wouldn’t necessarily encounter on campus or in a traditional fitness program: kayaking on the Charles River, rock-climbing, archery and horseback riding. In the winter—weather permitting—students will have the chance to learn to ski or snowboard at the Blue Hills Ski Area.

“We have several students in the program who are athletes, but they may not be interested in playing a sport in a particular season; and then we have students who aren’t interested in team sports,” Sam says. “This year, we wanted to have activities that are fun and healthy, that get the kids outside and encourage them to try new things.”

At the beginning and end of each season, students are evaluated. “Seeing how much progress they make in a relatively short time is really wonderful,” says Sonya Conway, the Grade 6 dean.

“I love the Wellness Program, because it combines a bunch of different activities together, and the groups are small,” said eighth-grader Blessie. “The skills we’re learning are helpful for other parts of life, as well—things like endurance and mind over matter.”